Comfort food that hurts


Have you ever noticed how some foods just change our mood? How at times you crave for a certain dish? Have you realised how you can forget your broken heart over a bowl of ice cream? When work gets hectic, when plans fall apart, when relationships flounder, we often try to calm our minds and hearts by filling our stomachs, which can make a person feel better, at least temporarily.

This craving for certain foods in any particular mood to make it better is known as comfort food. Throughout history and across cultures, food arguably has always been associated with the provision of comfort. ‘Comfort foods’ are those foods that afford solace during any stress period. These foods are generally associated with childhood memories and are usually home-cooked. These frequently have high sugar or carbohydrate content and evoke positive emotions when consumed. One plausible biological

explanation for the relation between food and mood maintains that foods that taste good may promote the release of certain chemicals and thereby alter one’s mood.

Comfort foods are consumed under different circumstances in an individual’s lives. Both social and psychological research indicates that when persons are feeling either sad or lonely, they may be more likely to consume particular foods. When they need an incentive to get through something particularly stressful, or when they wish to be rewarded for something they

have accomplished. In essence, comfort food provides individuals with a sense of security during troubling times by evoking emotions associated with safer and happier times.

Any food or drink to which one habitually turns to for temporary respite, security, or special reward is comfort food. The reasons that something becomes a comfort food are diverse but include the food’s familiarity, simplicity, and pleasant associations. There is huge gender difference in what individuals perceive as comfort food. Men are more likely to prefer entire meals, while women are more likely to prefer sweets and snack foods. Similarly age difference is also seen in preferring certain food as comfort food — younger people prefer sweets and snacks, while older people prefer soup and dry fruits.

While comfort food may be handy during stress, it’s also fattening. Everybody knows that obesity rates have been climbing steadily over the decades and that we live in stressful times. It is very obvious that eating without hunger and munching all the high calorie food will put on weight. Studies show there is a connection between stress, appetite, and weight gain. The chemicals that we produce during stressful times can help determine what we eat and how we store fat in our bodies.

So it is very important to realise the stress and cause of it than just turn to a plate of pasta and cheese. The comfort food might keep the mind away from tension and problem for a while but the weight gain will add some more stress in your life.

So the best plan will be to eat your favourite food but know your limit, lead a healthy life and

cut out binge and stress eating. — Compiled by Abhilasha Subba

Though strong emotions can trigger cravings for food, you can take steps to control those cravings. To help stop emotional eating, try these suggestions

Regaining control

• Learn to recognise true hunger: Is your hunger physical or emotional? If you ate just a few hours ago and don’t have a rumbling stomach, you’re probably not really hungry. Give the craving a few minutes to pass.

• Know your triggers: For the next several days, write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you’re feeling when you eat and how hungry you are. Over time, you may see patterns emerge that reveal negative eating patterns and triggers to avoid.

• Look elsewhere for comfort: Instead of unwrapping a candy bar, take a walk, treat yourself to a movie, listen to music, read or call a friend. If you think that stress relating to a particular event is nudging you toward the refrigerator, try talking to someone about it to distract yourself. Plan enjoyable events for yourself.

• Don’t keep unhealthy foods around: Avoid having an abundance of high-calorie comfort foods in the house. If you feel hungry or blue, postpone the shopping trip for a few hours so that these feelings don’t influence your decisions at the store.

• Snack healthy: If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose a low-fat, low-calorie food, such as fresh fruit, vegetables with fat-free dip or unbuttered popcorn.

• Eat a balanced diet: If you’re not getting enough calories to meet your energy needs, you may be more likely to give in to emotional eating. Try to eat at fairly regular times. Include foods from the basic groups in your meals. Emphasise whole grains, vegetables and fruits, as well as low-fat dairy products and lean protein sources. When you fill up on the basics, you’re more likely to feel fuller, longer.

• Exercise regularly, get adequate rest: Your mood is more manageable and your body can more effectively fight stress when it’s fit and well rested.